Parshah Vayeira

Rabbi […] :
I’m wondering if the phrase Im Yitzchaq in B’rashith 21.10 is superfluous?
One must ask, Why does Sarah need to say in 21.10, “with my son, im Yitzchaq (with laughter)” as she only has one son (Yitzchaq)?

One can not help but note that Avraham and Sarah both laughed, yet El-him tells Avraham, “… and you shall call his name Yitzchaq….” (B’rashith [Genesis] 17.19).

“But My covenant will I establish with Isaac ….” (B’rashith [Genesis] 17.21).

“Cast out this bondwoman and her son, for the son of this bondwoman shall not inherit with my son, with Yitzchaq.” (B’rashith [Genesis] 21.10).

Yitzchaq means derision (laughter) or scorn as in mockery (Shoftim [Judges] 16.25, Tehillim [Psalms] 1.1, 2.4).

Avraham laughed outwardly (with the mouth, not internally) with joy of heart and in astonishment or wonder believed; while Sarah “snickered” internally!

The Targum Onkleos renders Avraham’s laughter as “laughter of the mouth” as in, Tehillim 126.2 “Then our mouths will be filled with laughter [s’choq].” (See Rashi to 17.17; and the Netsiv to Tehillim 105.9 –

Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin of Volozhin, Ha’amek Davar: Commentary on the Pentateuch, New York: Friedman. <;

The significance of this particular detail (Sarah’s denial; she was afraid, because her laughter and eaves-dropping were revealed) and what Moshe (Moses) is trying to convey here is that nothing is hidden from HaShem (18.14) and HaShem reveals to His Prophets what He is doing (18.17; Devarim [Deuteronomy] 29.29: “the secret things belong to HaShem […] but the revealed things belong to us [….];” Amos 3.7); in this case HaShem excluded from His Covenant (e.g. Yishmael) those who mock “the sign of His Covenant” which is circumcision. Genesis Rabbah 55.4

The covenant is not established with mockery (scorn), but with laughter of joy as Sarah said, “[…] all who hear will laugh with me.” 21.6 Sarah was a Prophetess as it says, “because of the words of Sarah.” 20.18

In fact, King David prophesied in Tehillim 105.9 that Yitzchaq’s name would be changed to Yischaq (laughter of the mouth).

The difference between Avraham’s laughter and Sarah’s is that Avraham “fell on his face” (he worshiped in belief) while Sarah “laughed within herself” in denial.

Where it says in 21.10, “with my son, with Yitzchaq (laughter)” the phrase, Im Yitzchaq is superfluous; meaning we are not to read her prophetic decree or statement as a proper name (with Isaac) but as a statement of law! The inheritance comes from proper treatment of our fellow-being and not with mockery or scorn as Yishmael was seen doing.

2 thoughts on “Parshah Vayeira

  1. Thus saith the L-RD: If My covenant be not with day and night, if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; then will I also cast away the seed of Jacob, and of David My servant, so that I will not take of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; for I will cause their captivity to return, and will have compassion on them.’
    In this passage (Jeremiah 33.26) Isaac is spelled Yischaq, not Yitzchaq!


  2. RASHI:
    making merry: Heb. מְצַחֵק. An expression of idolatry, as it is said (Exod. 32:6):“and they rose up to make merry” (לְצַחֵק) . Another explanation: An expression of illicit sexual relations, as it is said (below 39:17):“to mock (לְצַחֶק) me.” Another explanation: An expression of murder, as it is said (II Sam. 2:14):“Let the boys get up now and sport (וַיִשַׂחֲקוּ) before us, etc.” – [from Gen. Rabbah 53:11]


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